Breathing new life into an old sport 'Rowling' hits bowling alleys PASADENA

September 10, 1993|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

The Riviera Bowl was so quiet Wednesday afternoon you could hear a pin drop.

Steve Sandusky, standing in the nearly empty bowling alley, had picked up a spare, which is not unusual for the owner of the 32-year-old duckpin alley on Fort Smallwood Road. Except he was not bowling; he was "rowling."

Mr. Sandusky, son of former Baltimore Colts star Alex Sandusky, shuffled down the lane pushing the ball with a 4-foot pole. Approaching the foul line, he gave the pole a shove sending the ball rolling gently down the lane toward the 10 duckpins 60 feet away.

"It's from California; it's something new," Mr. Sandusky said. "God knows, bowling can use something new."

A hybrid of shuffleboard and 10-pin bowling, rowling was developed last year by Dorsey Wire, a 78-year-old owner of a machine shop in Southern California, to help others his age bowl, said Jim Howe, chief of marketing for Rowler Sport, which manufactures and sells the poles.

Since then, rowling has taken off in Southern California. In February, the American Bowling Congress approved the sport for disabled players in sanctioned games. The first tournament was held in Pasadena, Calif., last spring.

The concept intrigued Mr. Sandusky, who saw it advertised in a national bowling magazine last spring.

Although Riviera Bowl still has its regulars, the recent popularity of other league sports such as softball and soccer has dampened business, said Mr. Sandusky, the first East Coast bowling lane operator to express interest in the game.

"I realized this is something new and the bowling industry can definitely use some bright spots now a days," he said.

The Rowler pole, however, has met resistance from some traditionalists, Mr. Howe said. "We've had a lot of people already say this is not something they want to see introduced to the sport; they see it as a little bit of a threat to standard bowling," he said.

But at Riviera Bowl, the Rowler pole appears to be a hit, Mr. Sandusky said. Since the poles, which have been adapted for the smaller duckpin balls, were introduced last month, league regulars have clamored to experiment with them.

"It's easier to control than just throwing it regularly," said BrendSuska, a regular Friday night bowler. "If they started a league, I'd play."

Mr. Sandusky said he expects rowling to appeal mostly to the occasional bowler and the "birthday party crowd." Because it requires less arm strength and different targeting skills, the Rowler pole is a "great equalizer" among men, women and children.

Even if it does not catch on, Mr. Sandusky says he won't regret having tried it. "If you don't try anything new, you end up like the other people -- out of business," he said.

Contributing writer Don Vitek assisted with this article.

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